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Seymour-Reed v. Forest Preserve District of Dupage County

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 19, 2017




         Plaintiff Daron Seymour-Reed ("Plaintiff) brings this lawsuit against Defendant Forest Preserve District of DuPage County ("Defendant") seeking damages for his allegedly racially motivated and illegal termination. Before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         Plaintiff began working for Defendant in June, 2009 and later worked in the Finance Department as a Senior Account Clerk. Plaintiffs duties included '"Processing] invoices, contracts, and requisitions for payment, ' 'Process[ing]...petty cash requests for payment, ' and 'Performing] other duties as assigned.'" Def.'s Local R. 56.1 Stmt, of Undisputed Material Facts, ¶ 2 (quoting, Ex. 2, Job Description) (hereinafter, "CM-ECF No.: 71-2"). His position required interpersonal skills in order to deal effectively with other employees. Moreover, Plaintiffs conduct was governed by Defendant's Personnel Policy Manuel, an Ethics Policy, and a Finance Department policy addressing personal cell phone usage.

         During the years of his employment, Plaintiff made two complaints about, what he perceived as, racially motivated statements by his co-workers. On June 2, 2011, Plaintiff complained that a co-worker used the term "whip" which drew parallels in his mind to slavery and was therefore offensive, despite not being directed at him. On March 1, 2013, Plaintiffs coworker asked what kind of chicken he had for lunch; Plaintiff believed that:

"You know, being black it's offensive to be thought of as a person, you know, you only eat chicken, especially during what I think people understand as a time when there are some cultures, some religions, you know, during this time specifically tomorrow - my wife is Catholic. She is not going to have a meat dish tomorrow. So even though I'm not Catholic myself, you know. I understand it's a religious holiday. Immediately, it's offensive to me to hear that especially in the setting of the time it took place."

CM-ECF No.: 71-2. ¶ 27 (quoting, Ex. 1, Reed Dep. at 67:12-22). Both complaints led to human resources investigations, neither of which resulted in a finding of racially motivated behavior. After each incident, Plaintiff was informed that he should contact Human Resources in the event that any other harassing, discriminatory, or retaliatory conduct should occur. Plaintiff made no other complaints to the Human Resources department after the March 1, 2013 incident.

         From June 5, 2013 through Plaintiffs termination he met with supervisors and human resources officials for a number of reasons. On August 8, 2014, Plaintiff was suspended for a half-day due to his insubordinate behavior toward his supervisor and inappropriate and excessive cellular phone usage during mandatory training. On September 8, 2014, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC") alleging race discrimination and retaliation by Defendant. On September 15, 2014, the EEOC issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights.

         On December 19, 2014, Plaintiff was again suspended, this time as a result of raising his voice and behaving inappropriately when talking with his supervisor about an accounting mistake discovered on December 17, 2014. Following a Human Resources investigation into the December 17, 2014 incident, Plaintiff was terminated on January 5, 2015. Defendant informed Plaintiff that he was being terminated because of performance problems, unprofessional and insubordinate behavior, and unethical conduct.

         Following his termination, on January 26 2014, Plaintiff filed a second claim of race discrimination and retaliation with the EEOC. That same day, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") alleging race discrimination and retaliation. On December 8, 2015, the IDHR issued a Notice of Dismissal for Lack of Substantial Evidence. Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination, no.: 2015CF2187, with the IDHR on February 8, 2015, and on October 29, 2015, the IDHR dismissed the charge for lack of substantial evidence. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested that the EEOC investigate Charge 2015CF2187, and on March 23, 2016, the EEOC adopted the IDHR's findings and issued a Notice of Right to Sue.

         On April 4, 2016, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint alleging: (I) Race Discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; (II) Discrimination in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"); (III) Gender Discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a); and (IV) Retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the Illinois Human Rights Act, and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2. On July 19, 2016, the Court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss Count I and Count IV(A). Now before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment, brought pursuant to Rule 56, on Counts II, III, and IV(B) and (C).


         Summary Judgment Standard

         "Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Dunderdale v. United Airlines, Inc., 807 F.3d 849, 853 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "A genuine issue of material fact exists when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Wells v. Coker, 707 F.3d 756, 760 (7th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The Court views the evidence, and draws all reasonable inferences, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. The Court does not "assess the credibility of witnesses, choose ...

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